Saturday, November 12, 2011

Song #14 of 9999 - Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying by Belle & Sebastian

Song #14 of 9999

Title: Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying
Artist: Belle & Sebastian
Year: 1996
Album: If You're Feeling Sinister

This was my first favorite Belle & Sebastian song. I may have more recent favorites, but this is the song that probably spurred me to go out and buy The Boy With the Arab Strap and, well, all of their other records. This song has the distinction of being perhaps the happiest sounding sad song I've ever heard. And I can't figure out how they did it. An upbeat toe-tapper with a Pachelbel Canon-like chord progression—everything about the musical arrangement screams happy. The words themselves aren't particularly sad, certainly not tragic enough to trump the major key melodies. And still, there is an overwhelming melancholy to the recording and performance which makes me much more likely to listen the song when I'm feeling sad (or sinister, I suppose).

The one thing I can point to as a contributing musical factor is the dissonance in the vocal melody that ends each chorus. For example, on the line "I always cry at endings," the stressed note is a flat-9 against the first chord and a major 7th against the second. Maybe it's this refusal to sing a consonant chord tone at the cadence that makes the song sad. As a music theorist, I find this type of unexplainable emotional resonance so interesting. Such a great song.

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